Monday, July 30, 2007


That's a terrible headline when you consider that either one of these actors (above) could run rings around me. Even so, I have it in me to criticize my betters, so here goes.....

The first thing that strikes me is that these are both nice, shy people. That's a mistake isn't it? Isn't there more dramatic tension if they're somewhat different? The play is "Biloxi Blues" by Neil Simon and there are plenty of personality conflicts in the rest of the story. Maybe Simon actually wanted these guys to be the same. Maybe, but...even so...there still has to be conflict, don't you think?

What if the guy had a chip on his shoulder like Garfield and the girl was alternately attracted and repulsed by him? Or what if the girl was really plain and had even lower self-esteem than the guy? I'm thinking of the girl in "Marty." What if he was comedic like Woody Allen and she was more serious? What if she knew her girlfriends were watching?

Dramatic acting is really scary. What if you don't like the script? You can't customize it. What if you're good at farce and the script requires method? What if the girl hates you in real life?

I have my usual criticisms about elocution and stage movement. Add to that the requirement for emotional music and word music. Aaaargh! What do you think?


Sean Worsham said...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......Oh oh I'm up now. No depth, no emotion nothing. I couldn't feel any sizzle between the two leads and it feels like a christian play. Meaning no conflict is necessary in these things. Even Disney makes better interaction between their leads (which this play did the impossible and actually made that happen when you compare the play to Disney!).

It kind of reminds me of how the baptists in Ed Wood tried to "fix" Plan 9 by making it a group effort and remove any references to grave robbing and taking out Plan 9's "special qualities," (when some of those awkward moments were Plan 9's only good traits). Ahh even Wood's film's acting was more interesting than this!

There needs to be some tension. I would make the lead character a wolf-in-sheeps clothing trying to prey on the woman's innocence. But unbeknownst to the wolf, she is a sultry beast who uses her innocence to attract wolves and eat them for lunch. Ooh I can see the tension her charm, vs. his hunger for lust! Now that's a story, and a good way to set up character conflict. We can make him tall and gangly while we keep her petite and cute. On top of this this could use some space aliens and paper plate saucers! Don't forget cartoon dogs and hot girls! ;)

Anonymous said...

You guys should see the movie.

Jennifer said...

What was this from, Uncle Eddie? Was this from a high school or college class?

In typical high school and college plays (not schools who specialize in performing arts), the "actors" are usually not performing as the character. Rather, they're just reciting lines with a slight change in tone to "reflect" an emotion. Also in these plays, the actions and staging are stilted, almost like the actors don't know what to do with their hands and feet and where to stand.

The acting in this clip reminded me of the acting in high school or college plays. Frankly, when I watched that clip, I wasn't drawn into the play. I felt more like a parent who was forced to watch the school play/pageant to show support for her child who happens to have a role in it.

Vincent Waller said...

Is this video of a class? Hardly seems fair to judge it.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jennifer: Nice desription! The YouTube title for this was "Meisner -- Final Scene", and since Meisner was a teacher I'll suppose this was a atudent production.

Meisner hated what he called "college acting," and you can see why. The weird thing is that the dialogue seems to have been written for this style, or something close to it.

Or maybe I'm misreading it and the dialogue in the script is fine. I imagine Jimmy Stewart or Judy Garland wouldn't have had trouble with it.

Vincent: I'm not ridiculing the actors. I'm grateful to them for putting this up.

Anonymous said...

This acting is is Oscar worthy, compared to Sophia Coppola in Godfather III.

Vincent Waller said...

No I didn't think you were making fun of them.
But judging the content of Dial. when it is being performed by a less than stellar actor seems a waste of your magnificent brain power.
I have a feeling Mr.Lancaster would make you read three shades of emotion in every one of those lines.
As I recall,the character did end up being cad like in that after he was shipped home he filed her in the lovely memory category, and moved on.

I.D.R.C. said...

Biggest problem is they both suck. The guy has no idea what to do with his hands. They don't know how to make their mutual shyness fun or interesting. As you pointed out, it's not a situation that is automatically rife with interest, and these two prove it. That's okay, though, in skilled hands. The scene could be well done. Like many scenes from plays, it ain't all on the page.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of people who commented here. Hardly anything happened in that performance. It was very dull and lifeless (seems like the read it right out of the script). Worst of all, you couldn't even see the actors' expressions.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the bandwidth at the moment to check out the video, but I'm curious Eddie, as to your first exposure to Biloxi Blues. Did you read it first? Or did you see it as a play or movie?

Because you remember a livelier script, which, it may indeed be, but I recall seeing a film version, and remember finding it remarkably dull.

That is, I suspect that Simon may have wanted the roles greatly underplayed, because I certainly don't recall any spark from the story as I have seen it portrayed (it may have had more potential on paper).

Anonymous said...

its the difference between talent and technical skill

Micah Baker said...

This reminds me of my high school drama class. It's also dredged up something, Eddie your comment about them both being shy did this; all the scenes my classmates performed were shy. Only a few acceptions. They were trying to act, but it seems they were really being themselves. Shy uncirtain children.

For the most part tension is needed. but I'm not thinking it's something that needs to be so histrionic as sheep in another animals chapou. Let each character want something. The dude may want to kiss her or something and the gal may want to... well CRSP has the best idea, she'll want make a mud puppy. And the other can provide the key to their want. a nice little tension. Small, unless she had a lot of cheese, and appropriate for an intimate scene.

I think it's great to look at amature scenes along with the proffessional scenes. It's always good to look at something and consider the possibilities.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Micah, Vincent: Thanks Micah! You provided me with an answer to Vincent!

Anon: Neil Simon occassionally sold stuff that wasn't ready. This play would have benefitted from an extra year in the drawer.

Andrew Moore said...

Theatre never videotapes well. As bad as this video looks, I guarantee the live performance was better.

Having said that, my first impression is that the staging is perfunctory. As this is a scene put up in class, I'm 99% certain the actors staged it themselves. And it shows.

A stage director brings the external viewpoint that keeps theatre from becoming intolerably self-involved. He or she is the surrogate audience through the rehearsal process, and pays specific attention to how the blocking contributes to the storytelling. (Well, if the director is any good.)

Secondly, they (especially he) are very much "on the page," meaning they haven't made the lines their own. About all they have done is memorize the script. It's just an empty recitation at this point.

Finally, and most egregiously, there is absolutely nothing at stake for either character. The clock is running out in this scene! Here are two youngsters who (awkwardly and without music) dance and make small talk; she obviously has to leave, and he is trying to impress her = this is a scene about sex.

It's perfectly fine for them to both be nervous, nice, and shy. So long as we can see what's at stake! This scene should absolutely crack and sizzle with sexual tension. Instead, it just sits there like a floppy tortilla.

I hope they got a "C".

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Andrew: True, video tape doesn't capture theater well. The blocking is missing and, as you said, they're just reading the lines.

Probably this was an early stage in the class, where they were just putting something out there for discussion. I don't judge anybody by what they do in a class like this when they're just starting out.

I would love to act in and direct a scene like this just to learn what I could from it. The mistakes would be painful, especially since they'd be made infront of other people, but no pain, no gain.

Andrew Moore said...

I don't usually unload on students. Lord knows I've been there!